Natural Health During Pregnancy
Pregnancy is a rich experience, which can differ greatly from woman to woman. Some will have planned to have a child, some not. Some will feel the best they have felt in a long time, many others will not! For all women, it is a time of great transition, and a time to take extra care of their health. Hormonal changes during pregnancy tend to make women more aware of their emotional side. There might also be a heightened sensitivity to the body's messages due to the incredible changes taking place on a daily basis. Pregnant women are advised to give up or cut down on many substances that many people use as a matter of course throughout their every day lives. These changes can bring with them a number of physical and emotional challenges. Thankfully, there are many natural remedies that are safe for the unborn child and mother to be, which may nourish, support and alleviate discomfort, during pregnancy and beyond.
Good nutrition is arguably the most important aspect of health during pregnancy, indeed at any time in our lives. The best way of obtaining nutrition is through food. The ideal diet is a varied wholefood diet, comprising whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Vegetarians and vegans in particular need to take care to eat adequate amounts of protein, which is provided by organic meat, well sourced fish, nuts and seeds, spirulina and combinations of pulses and grains. Soya products are best kept to a minimum as their high phytoestrogen content can have profound effects on the hormonal system. This is particularly important advice if you are trying to conceive.
Example daily supplements:
Please note: it is always best to consult a practitioner before taking any nutritional supplements if you have any long standing illness or complications in pregnancy. The remedies below are safe, for most women particularly so as they are Food State nutrients and thus involve taking lower potencies. See also Disclaimer .
Nature's Own Multivitamin and Mineral Complex x 1 per day as required.
Nature's Own Vitamin B Complex x1 this is especially important if you a vegan, also useful if you are suffering from stress.
Spirulina take half a teaspoon - two teaspoons, see next section.
Food state Folic Acid x1 First three months and pre-pregnancy. If you are taking the Multi vitamin and B complex, together they provide 300mcg of folic acid in an easily absorbed form. For women who have a wholesome diet, this is enough.
Food State Vitamin C x1 (when fruit intake is low, or you have a cold) Linseed Oil three teaspoons (use plenty of cold pressed olive oil also)
Spa-tone Iron Sachet x1 or more as needed (up to 3 sachets)
Baby and Me: this is an off the shelf formula specifically designed for mothers and babies. It may be taken after the twelfth week of pregnancy. If you choose this formula, you need not take any of the above supplements, except perhaps, spirulina. Baby and Me contains appropriate levels of Food State nutrients as well as Essential Fatty Acids. It also contains a small amount of Raspberry Leaf - if you have highly developed abdominal muscles or frequent Braxton Hicks contractions, do not take this formula.
Spirulina is a highly nutritive natural food supplement, which is rich in chlorophyll, beta-carotene and trace minerals. It is also a rich source of easily digestible protein and Omega 3 essential fatty acids. EFAs help to build the brain and nervous system of the foetus and are leached from the mother during pregnancy. Chlorophyll is detoxifying, counteracts yeasts and fungi in the digestive tract, builds the blood, and activates enzymes to produce the vitamins E, A and K. Spirulina is best taken in powder form stirred into apple juice or fruit puree to mask their acquired taste. It is also available as capsules or tablets. Start off with a low dose (quarter to half a teaspoon) particularly if taking for the first time, or in early pregnancy, then build up slowly to the maximum dosage (one to two teaspoons).
Iron supplementation during pregnancy is discouraged by conventional doctors because non-food state iron is not well absorbed by the body and can cause nausea and constipation. This is a pity because natural iron can be incredibly helpful to pregnant women suffering from mild relative anaemia (feeling drained and exhausted) caused by the increases in their blood volume. All the iron supplements we sell are food state - therefore they are easily absorbed (meaning that dosages are far lower) and have no side effects. If you suffer from yeast imbalance choose Spatone iron sachets, vegans should try Floradix as this contains vitamin B12.
Herb Use in Pregnancy
For most women there are a few gentle herbs that offer natural and non-toxic relief from the various discomforts that may accompany pregnancy. The herbs are generally taken as teas, although tinctures and capsules may be used where indicated. Vary your choice of teas to avoid taking any one herb in excess - one cup a day of any one herb is ideal - althouh nettle tea may be drunk freely.
Please remember that all herbs are potent remedies. If you have any complications or a long-standing medical condition, you would be wise to be cautious about using herbs without consulting a qualified herbalist. There are certain herbs which should be avoided during pregnancy. If you are at all unsure, consult a herbalist or ask staff for advice at the Haelan Herbal Dispensary. See also Disclaimer .
Chamomile helps to soothe the nerves, induce restful sleep and calm palpitations. Can be beneficial for symptoms of caffeine withdrawal. Helps the digestion.
Dandelion tea / coffee The tea is useful if there is any water retention (swelling around ankles, puffiness in face or fingers). Dandelion coffee is a pleasant tasting alternative to coffee, which benefits the liver and kidneys, both of which need extra support during pregnancy, it is also gently laxative and stimulates the digestion.
Elderberry tincture is a good safe remedy for those suffering from viral infections such as coughs, colds or the 'flu.
Fennel, aniseed and spearmint all help nausea and calm a windy tummy. Ginger is invaluable to help with morning sickness. Add a pinch to any other herb tea.
Check that you are drinking plenty of water at least two litres a day and look carefully at your nutrient intake (particularly iron). Increase protein intake. Avoid junk food. Ginger Cordial is a refreshing and tasty way of taking ginger.
Linseeds are useful for treating constipation in pregnancy. Simply soak a teaspoon or two in a mug of boiling water and drink the lot the following morning. Also make sure you are drinking plenty of water and eating whole grains, vegetables and fruits. Soaked dried fruits are also beneficial.
Meadowsweet a pleasant tasting tea for indigestion and heartburn can be mixed with dandelion leaf and chamomile (equal parts). Another remedy for heartburn is to eat Umboshi plum a macrobiotic condiment. Suck the stone of the plum to relieve heartburn after meals. Remember to chew your food really well and do not eat when under stress.
Nettle a most beneficial iron rich tea, which may be taken freely during pregnancy. It is also rich in other minerals and chlorophyll.
Pregnancy Nourishment Tea a loose herb blend which contains nettle, raspberry leaf, alfalfa, rosehips, red clover and spearmint. It can be taken hot or cold and is suitable from 3 months onwards. It's also good postpartum for toning the uterus and general nourishment.
Raspberry Leaf relaxes, yet tones, the uterine muscles. It may be taken as a tea occasionally after the first three months of pregnancy. It is ideally taken twice a day after week 28. You might prefer to take capsules at this stage. Do not take if you have highly developed abdominal muscles or frequent Braxton-Hicks contractions.
Slippery Elm is a soothing nutritive herb, which is of benefit for symptoms of morning sickness, heartburn and indigestion. Take a heaped teaspoon or two, stirred into a paste to which warm soya or rice milk is added. Can be flavoured with a small amount of cinnamon, ginger and honey.
Bach Flower Remedies
The flower remedies offer a completely safe way of treating emotional upset during pregnancy. They may be used singly or in a combination of up to seven flowers. Following are two remedies particularly pertinent to pregnancy. Ask staff for advice on the other flowers in the range.
Walnut is a must for every pregnant woman! Helps you adapt to the numerous changes in your body that are occurring on a daily basis, and for first time mothers, helps with the transition to motherhood.
Five Flower Remedy is invaluable for use in stressful situations. Keep on hand and take regular 4-drop doses if you feel tense, shocked or panicked. If you feel tense in your belly rub a few drops of the remedy into this area, it is amazing how calming it is. In these situations it is good to talk to your baby, to let him or her know what is happening. They will be feeling the stress too! Talking will help to reassure them as well as having a calming effect on you.
Yoga and pregnancy
Yoga is an ideal form of exercise for the pregnant woman. Yoga is a mindful practice that emphasises stretching, relaxation and awareness of the breath. These are all important aspects of preparation for birth. It is wise to avoid ordinary yoga classes in the first tri-mester or if you are new to yoga. Go to an ante-natal yoga class (ideal for first time mums) or a very gentle yoga class where the teacher is willing to make adaptations to suit your needs. Always inform the yoga teacher that you are pregnant.
Essential oils and topical treatments
Essential oil use in baths or massage is discouraged during the first trimester, although you may still use oils in a burner. After this period, choose gentler oils and avoid any that are specifically contra-indicated, ask staff if unsure. After this period use only 2 or 3 drops of oil in the bath - neroli, mandarinand pettigrain are safe oils to use. Nourish your skin with Absolute Aromas Expecting Massage Oil (for use after 4 months) or the Green Baby anti stretch mark cream. Alternatively just use plain almond oil after bathing on damp skin, to this you might like to add 20% jojoba oil and 10% rosehip oil. If you wish to use a moisturising body lotion Urtekram Children's Lotion is the most gentle and natural choice. A regular massage can be extremely helpful for pregnant women (with or without essential oils).
An Encyclopaedia of Herbal Medicine, Thomas Bartram, (Grace Publishers; 1995)
The New Holistic Herbal, David Hoffman, (Element; 1999)